Disconnects in the Workplace

English is a clear and easy language used all over the world in business because of its broad applicability . .. right?  Then how is it that so many of us can hear the same instructions and  say we understand, and yet there always seems to be the one guy who just doesn't "get it"?  You know who I mean -- he's enthusiastic, and eager, but keeps getting it wrong. He'll jump right in and answer questions, wrong. It's gotten to a point where you won't send him out for a tuna sandwich, because you're afraid he'll come back with mac & cheese.

It's a frustrating situation all around, I know.

One tactic is to pay attention to whether you've got a problem with your training program. For example, if you've just ended up having a lot of people who learn by reading and he's primarily kinesthetic, that can be valuable information. This can crop up frequently in small companies, where the 'training' is often one-on-one and not formalized in any fashion. In these cases it can also be a personality issue between the trainer and student. Look into whether difference in communication styles led to a lot of misunderstandings, or simply the new person not wanting to ask questions. In this situation, stepping in and re-training is the first step to try to fix the disconnect.

Another area to explore -- especially with employees new to the workplace -- is whether she understands the consequences of her mistakes. Its hard to imagine, but there are plenty of people who have never experienced negative outcomes as a result of something they did -- or didn't -- do. For this person, having a direct, specific, conversation about the impact of their mistakes can often bring them on board and get their attention.

But sometimes its just a matter of what I call 'talking past' one another. He thinks he's paying attention and understands what you're saying, you think you're being clear and direct in your instructions. Yet somehow he keeps bringing you mac and cheese for lunch when you asked for tuna fish. There are times when its a matter of context. One way to deal with this is to ask for him to tell you what he's going to do. It gives you a chance for immediate coaching ("whups, no. The tuna fish is on the left side of the deli, next to the soda") and may lead to an understanding of where the disconnect is.(*) This is a case where you want to get past him saying "I understand" and instead use his own words to describe the process.

In every case, you want to take notes and look for patterns. If you don't have to do a PIP then you know you hired a great employee: great people will adapt and grow into great employees.

*As a non-work example, my husband and I were planning a small change to our front yard. He couldn't understand why I wanted to put paving stones down the length of our yard until I mentioned that it would make it easier for me to take the garbage cans out. For my part, I felt silly when he pointed out that we would make it much easier if we just put a few paving stones down so I could reach the driveway and took the cans down that way. We spent weeks disagreeing about this issue but it wasn't until he realized I took the cans out differently than he did that we were able to solve it.

©2016, Lisa Mc Sherry, DawnspringHR. All rights reserved.

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